‘Tis the Season: Preparation for (Hopefully) Hefty Holiday Sales Starts Now

Christmas is right around the corner. No, not Christmas in July—actual Christmas. While most people are not giving the winter holiday season a thought during the warm days of summer, any successful manufacturer, distributor or retailer is.

Getting ready for the increase in product demand the gift-giving time brings takes planning, and it is important that the pet industry makes the most of these consumer-spending months. Plus, with people now seeing pets as members of the family, we can expect there to be more pet product presents granted to pets and pet owners. Now’s the time to get ahead of that wintertime rush.

An Easy Shopping Experience

The holidays aren’t all merriment; it can also be really stressful.

“In general, people are exhausted. They’ve been Christmas shopping, and [as the retailer], you need to tell them what to buy,” store designer Tom Crossman explained.

That’s where bulk stack and prewrap come in.

“If you have an aquarium—and you have a lot of them—keep one or two on display and gift wrap the rest of them so that you’re just making it easy on people, because that’s exactly what they want—they want you to tell them what to buy,” Crossman said.

Complete kits are something else retailers can stock in order to make shopping—especially for a first-time pet— easier on customers. Kaytee sees a seasonal increase in sales of its starter kits during the holidays, according to Jason Casto, the company’s director of marketing.

Kaytee offers six species-specific complete starter kits for small animals, including hamsters, guinea pigs, chinchillas, ferrets and two different-sized cage options for rabbits.

“The complete kits contain everything a consumer needs to get started with a new small animal pet, including the cage, food, bedding, water bottle and food dish,” Casto said. “The Kaytee Complete Kit Habitats are also merchandised in full-colored boxes with graphics on all sides for an easy way to display on shelf. Just add a holiday ribbon or box and the retailer’s small animal department is ready for the holiday season!”

Pet Zone in San Diego, California, which specializes in tropical fish and their supplies, also sees an increase in sales of complete aquarium kits during the winter.

“About a month or so before Christmas hits, people are coming in and getting either five-, 10- or 20-gallon starter kits for either their kids or significant other,” said Roger Ma, owner of Pet Zone.

And Pet Zone’s surge in kit sales from Christmas continues through January and February due to the New Year and Valentine’s Day holidays. In fact, for the duration of the three major winter holidays, Pet Zone says it sees a 20 percent increase in foot traffic and sales.

“We move the most tank packages during the months of December and February,” Ma explained. “Also, since everyone has New Year resolutions, they finally get that fish tank they’ve always wanted, and January is the month that we get a surge in first-timer fish hobbyists that come in.”

Penn-Plax is one of the companies that experiences an uptick in sales of all-in-one tank kits during the winter months. According to Marissa Kactioglu of Penn-Plax’s Product Development, the company’s Right-Bite Educational Tank, which offers a parent-child activity and learning experience, and the SpongeBob Aquarium Kit are two examples of top-sellers.

Another important component to making customers’ shopping experience easier is setting up a clearly demarcated queue for the cash wrap. While having just a cash wrap might be fine most of the year, Christmastime calls for a more organized checkout experience. Crossman says stores need a rope and signage so people know where to get in line and so that the store’s associates know where each customer is in that line.

“A lot of stores, there will be a number of people around the register and the associate will say, ‘Can I help the next customer,’ and it’s like, Holiday paws3I don’t want to manage that; I want you to know who the next guest is because it’s stressful otherwise,” Crossman said. “So you need a queue that you know where they are in line, and hopefully you have a long line of people!”

The most important piece of a customer’s shopping experience? According to Crossman, it’s four-foot aisles.

Providing an ample amount of walking and viewing space allows for customers to shop more easily, which can lead to more sales. Without fourfoot aisles, customers might only look at the top shelf. With aisles that are wide enough for customers to stand back, they can see all that is offered. Plus, Crossman points out, store associates will be saving time, for they “wouldn’t have to answer unnecessary questions like, ‘Where’s the dog shampoo?’”

If getting a four-foot aisle means removing a fixture from the store floor for the time being, it’s worth it, he says.

Besides helping to make people’s stressful holiday season less so, pet stores can also help in making it more festive. People want to feel the holiday spirit as they are out and about.

Asbury Park, New Jersey’s Paws Pet Boutique has its store decorated in time for the second week of November, according to owner Ruth Kiser. The store also hosts a Picture with Santa Paws event on the first Saturday of December, where they offer props, like reindeer antlers, for customers to buy for the photo.

Pet Zone loves to get festive and decorates for nearly every holiday, including Christmas, Ma said. To help customers bring the merry mood the store creates home, Pet Zone gives out free Christmas moss to every person who buys an aquatic plant. Not only does that spruce up customers’ aquariums, but it also gives Pet Zone a surge in business during the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

Decorating a store is important to creating a space in which a patron wants to shop and spend money. However, Crossman says, retailers shouldn’t let their decorations be wimpy. This is many stores’ time to make a big profit, so retailers should make it count.

“You need to invest in some serious garland, some thick four- or five-inch garland. Put lights in it. And spend some money because this is your money time of the year,” Crossman said. “I’ve seen many stores that just use that cheap garland, and it would be better not to use anything than that cheap garland… cheap garland means there’s a cheap store—and I don’t mean in terms of prices. You have to believe in Christmas; you really have to show that tHoliday – 58451_snowman_LShis is a really important time for you.”

As for a window display, clean is key. A border of garland with lights is enough—simple, yet impactful.

Besides decorations, another way to let customers know you’re ready for the holidays is to have plenty of items. Christmas is about abundance, and stores should look like they have a lot in stock.

“My motto is pile it high and watch it fly because you have to have it in order to sell it,” said Jungle Bob Smith, who owns Jungle Bob’s Reptile World in Selden, New York. “You can’t skimp on inventory that time of year.”

Crossman suggests stocking up on the items that sell well throughout the year.

“When you have a lot of one product, it’s the retailer telling you they believe in this product,” he said. “They believe so much in this product that they bought a whole bunch of them.”

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